External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday confirmed that the 39 Indians, who were abducted by the Islamic State in Iraq’s Mosul in 2014, are dead.

Making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, the minister said that the bodies of the deceased Indians were spotted using deep penetration radar. The bodies were exhumed from a mass grave and their identities were confirmed by DNA tests, she added.

As many as 40 Indians were taken hostage by Islamic State militants in 2014 when they took control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. It is believed that the workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were captured.

Islamic state captured and held 40 Indians hostage and one person identified as, Harjit Masih, had managed to flee and return from Iraq.

After surviving, he claimed that all the other Indians were killed by the ISIS militants. His claims were refuted by the Indian government as Swaraj asserted that according to government sources the abducted Indians were still alive.

While talking to reporters, Masih had once said, “Why the government is not accepting the reality and giving proper information about the 39 Indians to their kin? If the government says all Indians are safe, why has it not produced any of them in all these three years! Moreover, what will I get by not telling truth.”

“I still pray to God that my claim proves wrong,” he added.

After arriving in India in 2015, Masih, a resident of Kala Afghana village in Gurdaspur district, told media how he managed to survive and return to his country.

The lone-survivor Masih said that four or five days after being abducted on June 15 in 2014, they were taken to a hilltop by the ISIS. They were ordered to line-up. The militants shot them from behind and Masih, reportedly, received a shot in the right leg. After being shot, he fell down and pretended to be dead until the militants left.

He added: “I pray and hope that somebody survived like I did. The chances are bleak. It would be a miracle because they all lay in a pool of blood with nobody responding to my calls. Among them, six were from Bihar and two from West Bengal. All the others were Punjabis.”

Swaraj had clearly stated that she did not believe Masih’s claims about 39 Indians being dead as Indian government continued its search.

Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha that Masih had managed to leave Mosul unharmed with a group of Bangladeshi nationals.